In the northeast of Spain lies the winery Ramón Bilbao. In the traditional Rioja region, the estate produces wines with a unique personality that are highly appreciated in the international trade. Sustainability, the age-old tradition of viticulture and the vision of creating an exceptional product have been the basis of every wine at Ramón Bilbao for decades. With Lalomba, the winery presents three single-vineyard wines, conceived as an authentic expression of Ramón Bilbao’s most charismatic vineyards and already awarded by recognized experts and international wine guides.
In an interview with about-drinks, Lalomba project director Alberto Saldón and Rosana Lisa, technical director of Bodega Lalomba, talk about the brand, what inspiration led to its development, and what makes Lalomba single-vineyard wines so special.
Please introduce yourself: Who are you and what do you do at Ramón Bilbao?
Rosana Lisa: My name is Rosana Lisa and I am the Technical Director at the Lalomba Bodega – the newest independent project of Ramón Bilbao. I would describe myself as a very meticulous winemaker, quite passionate about the vineyards and obsessed with capturing each particular landscape in the wines of Lalomba.
Alberto Saldón: Hi, I’m Alberto Saldón and I am the Lalomba Project Director. I’ve dedicated my professional life to the world of wine and faithfully believe that the reward for giving something your best is to be able to gain professional satisfaction and enjoy living from something you feel passionate about.
How long has Ramón Bilbao been around? Tell us about the story of how you came to be.
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: Bodegas Ramón Bilbao was founded in Haro in 1924, right in the heart of the Rioja Alta. The purchase of the bodega in 1999 by Zamora Company, a family business from the liquor and spirits sector based in Cartagena (Murcia), and the appointment of our dear friend, Head Winemaker and General Manager of Ramón Bilbao, Rodolfo Bastida, marked a new era in the history of our bodega. This meant and still menas adopting a philosophy and a style in which the grapes fully express themselves and are in perfect balance with the cask-ageing, without hiding their primary character.
We evolved this approach even further with the purchase of our „dream vineyard” in Monte Yerga, where Ramón Bilbao acquired a vineyard in Rioja Oriental. Then, finally, the Bodega Lalomba was built in 2012. Another important milestone was the launch of our Lalomba Rosado in 2016, our first wine born from this terroir.
Today, Lalomba expresses the authenticity of the vineyard with a collection of three wines from three estates which Ramón Bilbao, as parent cellar of Lalomba, has been studying and meticulously cultivating in different parts of Rioja over the years: Finca Valhonta on the terraces of Villalba de Rioja in the Rioja Alta, Finca Ladero and Finca Lalinde on the stark hillsides of the Sierra de Yerga in the Rioja Oriental.
What makes the winery special? Are there any unique selling points?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: At Bodegas Ramón Bilbao, we seek to give our wines a personal interpretation of the Rioja Alta style. This is something we achieve by reworking the classic ingredients like the tempranillo grape and American oak. Our aim is to determine a fresh, elegant style, creating wines packed with more fruit in which the grapes express all their character without getting buried under an excessive use of wood. For the ageing, we follow our own philosophy, using casks made of French and American oak with a mild toast that are used for a maximum of 5 years. In addition, we use our own indigenous yeasts to make our wines, selected from our vineyards, to heighten certain qualities related to the aroma, structure or colour of the wine.
The legacy of Ramón Bilbao is as alive today as ever, through the wines and a brand which continues to grow year by year, looking at life through different eyes. Bodegas Ramón Bilbao is a global winemaking benchmark and their wines, aimed at a restless public with a desire to discover new things, invite you to understand the diversity of Rioja and Rueda’s potential for exploration.
The winery is one of the best in all of Spain. What awards have you already received?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: Ramón Bilbao’s heritage and the teamwork of the winemakers to date have been rewarded with numerous awards, such as the prize for the Best Spanish Bodega in 2014 awarded at the International Wine & Spirits Competition. Approaching our 100-year history, we’ve been very happy adding a new milestone to this constant evolution in 2021: For the third consecutive year, our winery has been included in the list of the 50 most admired wine brands, by Drinks International, an achievement that only two other Spanish wineries can boast of to date.
For more than 20 years, our iconic premium wine Mirto has been a particular focus for wine lovers and experts. Already on the market since 1999, Mirto has taken a firm place among the great wines of Spain and was even named the best Tempranillo in the world with the 2006 vintage.
With Lalomba, we took the next step in this evolution. The exceptional wines have already been awarded by recognised experts and international wine guides, too. Tim Atkin, British wine critic and Master of Wine, for example, awarded the Lalomba Rosado the title Best Rioja Rosado three times in a row in his Rioja Special Report.
How many and what products does the portfolio include?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: For almost 100 years, Bodegas Ramón Bilbao and our wines have stood for passion, perseverance and wines with a unique personality. Low yields and the best, hand-picked harvests correspond with our aspiration of high-quality at Bodegas Ramón Bilbao. These are wines of perfect quality, emblematic of the rich tradition of the Rioja. The style of our wines is based on the visionary work of our head oenologist Rodolfo Bastida: he developed the traditional Rioja wines further using unusual methods, without ever leaving the path of a great wine style. Innovative technology, the latest scientific findings and the constant urge to move forward and dare to try something new make Ramón Bilbao a leading premium brand in Spanish gastronomy today.
The portfolio includes a wide range of quality and top wines from the Rioja and Rueda regions. From classics with a twist, such as the Crianza and the Reserva, to special editions, such as the Edición Limidata Rioja and the multi-award-winning Gran Reserva, to our world-famous Mirto, we offer the right product for gourmets interested in wine, but also for true wine connoisseurs. Since the inauguration of our bodega Finca Las Amedias estate in the Rueda region in 2017, we’ve also been able to widen our portfolio of white wines and explore that region’s potential for offering fine quality wines from Verdejo and Sauvignon Blanc vineyards.
Most recently – also in Germany – the Lalomba site wines were launched. What kind of products are these?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: Lalomba is the purest expression of Ramón Bilbao’s most enthralling wines. The winery combines the deep understanding of each plot with the innovation aimed at expressing their unique character. Sustainability, the ancestral vine growing tradition and the vision of producing an exceptional product. All this comes together in a context of growing worldwide demand for great wines with distinction, identity and purity. We believe, Lalomba has what the world of wine has christened as “a sense of place”.
So Lalomba is the result of an objective reality which is there, on the vine-covered slopes and hillsides. It’s also the fruit of years of observing, working and understanding the terroir. Of course, this is the result of a team, a space and resources devoted over a long period of time to research and experimenting until what the vineyard itself is asking for is achieved: the recognition of its distinctiveness, idiosyncrasy and purity.
What is special about Lalomba Rioja wines. What makes them stand out?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: Lalomba is the quintessence of Rioja terroir, altitude and winemaking. The three plots used exclusively for the Lalomba wines are among the prime sites in the Rioja region and offer exceptional conditions. But that alone is not enough for a special wine. It is our understanding of these sites, the respect with which we treat vines and soils, and the long-acquired knowledge of the region that finally led us to the far-reaching decision to bottle Lalomba wines separately by site – in order to highlight their exceptional value.
In short, the sum of the soils and microclimates, the maintenance of traditional, sustainable viticultural methods of high quality, the value of the landscape and the altitude are unique elements that now also shape the character of the new Lalomba red wines.
What are the three varieties? Give us a tasting profile.
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: The Tempranillo grapes for the Lalomba Finca Valhonta 2017 come from high, cool soils with a strong character, surrounded by forests. There, at the foot of the Obarenes Mountains, they develop their highest degree of harmony and charm in the wide limestone-clay terraces. The result are delicate floral and herbal aromas with notes of red and black fruits and a hint of liquorice that combine in the nose and palate of this red wine. The 2017 Lalomba Finca Valhonta has a fine texture but enough tannins for nice storage potential.
All the power of the mountains is in the Lalomba Finca Ladero 2016. This deep, stimulating wine combines the Tempranillo (80 per cent) and Garnacha (20 per cent) grape varieties and reflects the distinctive identity of the Yerga mountains. An interesting combination of concentrated black fruits and the typical herbal notes of the Garnacha grape. An exuberant, powerful and bright red wine with a long-lasting acidity and noticeable complexity, bursting with energy and power.
Lalomba’s first wine is a Rosado made from 90 percent Garnacha and 10 percent Viura grapes. The 2019 Lalomba Rosado Finca Lalinde is the pale pink, liquid quintessence of a dry, hot ripening cycle with many particularly warm days and little rain. With its finesse, intense and floral character and a pleasantly dry acidity, it testifies to winemaker Rosana Lisa’s understanding of the site, the terroir and the grapes, which make the Lalomba Rosado an authentic and at the same time very characterful Rosado.
How do you drink the wine? What do you enjoy with it? Are there any food pairing recommendations?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: All three Lalomba wines are the flavourful symbols of a particular vineyard and can stand on their own. But they also wonderfully accompany high-quality dishes from the upscale and star cuisine. Selected delicacies from the sea such as creamy salmon or sea bass are perfectly accompanied by the Finca Lalinda Rosado. A creamy crayfish soup or a tender roasted scallop goes very well with the Lalomba Finca Valhonta. And intense ox cheeks or a chocolatey mousse are strong partners for the Lalomba Finca Ladhero.
Through which distribution channels are the products marketed in Germany?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: All Ramón Bilbao wines, including the new Lalomba wines, are available in Germany in the portfolio of the renowned importer Mack & Schühle. End consumers can enjoy the wines in selected upscale restaurants and buy them in well-stocked specialist shops and as well as the online shop at www.shopramonbilbao.de.
What communication measures do you use in marketing? What are you doing in the area of social media?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: In addition to targeted sales promotion measures in the on- and off-trade, Mack & Schühle AG supports the brand with communicative PR measures, including regular press releases, individual press trips and sampling of interested journalists as well as events for the trade and selected press representatives.
In the area of social media, Ramón Bilbao has been relying on a steadily growing community on Instagram and Facebook for several years, where users can regularly expect high-quality content about the portfolio, the brand’s activities, current awards and inspiration for seasonal occasions and food pairings.
Are there any specific plans for Germany in the coming year?
Rosana Lisa & Alberto Saldón: We will continue our press work and social media presence also in 2022. We are furthermore currently planning selected events for the gastronomy and retail sectors as well as for our target media. In addition, professionals and consumers can of course look forward to new vintages launched in the German market and, of course, the best Rioja wines with the personal Ramón Bilbao twist as well as the unique terroir character, such as the new Lalomba site wines.
+++ We would like to thank Alberto Saldón and Rosana Lisa for the open and very interesting interview and wish them continued success! If you also have an interesting brand, then we should talk. Just send us an email with the subject “about-drinks interview” to firstname.lastname@example.org – we look forward to hearing from you! +++